Covington’s fire, police unions ready for ‘barroom fight’ over dwindling ranks in city budget

COVINGTON, Ky. — Covington’s police and fire unions are ready for a “barroom fight” over dwindling ranks.

The city of Covington plans to save money by not replacing all 10 firefighters who are leaving, and also by leaving a police officer position vacant.

Out of 10 firefighter positions that would need to be filled to maintain current staffing, only six will be hired. That reduction is expected to trim about $300,000 from the city’s budget.

The fire union gave Covington’s city commissioners an earful Monday night after what it calls years of cuts.

“The one thing that I promised him from the beginning is that, if they attacked our staffing, it would be a barroom fight,” said Jimmy Adams, president of Covington Firefighters Union Local 38. “And tonight, they took the first punch.

Covington Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 1 had similar complaints. The union said its members feel new pressure to fight heroin after a visit from the nation’s drug czar.

“We’re asking for more police officers,” FOP president Bryan Bogard said. “We’re asking for more resources on the streets to do our job.”

Instead of proactive problem-solving, Bogard said, “we’re being reactive because we don’t have these bodies on the street to solve these problems.”

City Manager Larry Klein said Covington would only be $34,000 in the black under his proposal, so his hands are tied.

“No matter what we might want or what we might wish to have, like every household we have a budget to balance,” Klein said. “And then we have state law telling us to do that.”

Covington holds a public hearing on its Fiscal Year 2016 budget Tuesday night at 6 p.m., at Covington City Hall.